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Photo by Joan Garvin

Featured Plant: Red Sprite Winterberry

January 29, 2019

If you stop by the High Line during the colder months of the year, there’s no way you can miss Red Sprite winterberry, Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite.’ The vibrant red berries of Red Sprite winterberry are a colorful contrast with the subdued tones of dried grasses that characterize the High Line’s winter landscape.

In addition to being a beautiful ornamental shrub, winterberry’s prolific fruit is a great source of food for native and migrating birds. High Line Staff have even observed mockingbirds guarding the bushes from other winged competitors so they can keep the coveted food source to themselves.

Behind the scenes, interesting biology is at work with Red Sprite winterberry. Unlike most plants, many hollies are dioecious, meaning each individual plant is sexually distinct and will only create male or female flowers. Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ plants are all female and would not produce their characteristic red fruits without first being pollinated by a male counterpart. To ensure bountiful fruiting, High Line Gardeners have planted Ilex verticillata ‘Jim Dandy’ in close proximity and natural wind pollination does the rest.

On the High Line between Gansevoort and 14th Streets, and between 20th and 23rd Streets.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line’s most important gardening projects.

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TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

High Line Gardens are supported by Greenacre Foundation.

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The High Line is almost entirely supported by people like you. As a nonprofit organization, we need your support to keep this public space free—and extraordinary—for everyone.